Antibiotics, Bacteria-Killing Viruses Help Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

As the researchers searched for an antibiotic to pair up with the antibacterial bacteriophage, they found that they could treat the infection with the bacteriophage alone.

Ongoing research seeks new therapies that combine bacteriophages with medications that are currently used to treat antibiotic-resistant infections, according to a recent article from Disease Models & Mechanisms.

Laurent Kremer and colleagues from Université de Montpellier, France and University of Pittsburgh, US, are investigating the antibacterial effects of a new combination therapy, treating infections caused by the antibiotic-resistant bacteria M. abscessus with a bacteriophage and an antibiotic.

The research team in Pittsburgh identified 1 bacteriophage out of 10,000 that efficiently kills bacteria in a petri dish and could be a candidate for treating these infections in humans; however, they wanted to find an alternative to testing their new therapy in patients.

Kremer and his colleagues then tested their new combination therapy on zebrafish carrying the key genetic mutation that causes cystic fibrosis in humans and imitates how our immune system responds to bacterial infections. Following this, they obtained samples of an antibiotic-resistant form of M. abscessus from a patient with cystic fibrosis to infect the zebrafish and test their new treatment.

While monitoring the zebrafish, the researchers found that the fish developed serious infections with abscesses and suffered a high death rate, with only 20% surviving. Next, they tested how well the infected fish recovered when injected with the antibacterial bacteriophage over a period of 5 days. The fish had less severe infections, increased chances of survival, and had fewer of the abscesses suffered by the fish during a severe infection.

As the researchers searched for an antibiotic to pair up with the antibacterial bacteriophage, they found that they could treat the infection with the bacteriophage alone. The team identified and treated the fish with rifabutin for 5 days, which helped the infections become less severe and survival rates grew to 70%, according to the study authors.

The researchers said that this new discovery can be used in a clinic to start helping human lives.

“We need clinical trials, but there will be many other questions to be answered on our way there […] and zebrafish provide a very helpful tool for advancing these questions,” said Graham Hatfull from University of Pittsburgh, USA in the press release.

REFERENCE

Ground-breaking bacteria-killing viruses unite with antibiotics to fight devastating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. EurekAlert! September 16, 2021. Accessed September 21, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/927986